With the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons have drifted into the background of the publicís concerns. Nevertheless, the reality is that nuclear threats have not disappeared. The U.S. and Russia continue to hold approximately 15,000 strategic warheads. Nuclear weapons are still integral to the military doctrines of the U.S., Russia, and others. Assertive and influential government bureaucracies and "technocracies" in nuclear states continue to demand and receive robust funding for weapons programs and further research. The failure of the nuclear-weapon states to commit decisively to the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons could thwart cooperation from other key countries in implementing multilateral nonproliferation efforts. The danger of nuclear proliferation remains intense, especially with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of its controls over nuclear technology, materials, and expertise. Other countries, such as Israel, India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, still apparently harbor interests or capabilities in fielding nuclear forces.
Still, there are promising signs that further progress toward disarmament can be achieved. Recent announcements by retired senior U.S. military officials calling for deep reductions and, over time, complete elimination of nuclear weapons have brought serious new attention to the future of nuclear forces. The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons has also elevated the topic of nuclear abolition internationally. The ratification of START II by the United States is an important step forward. Formal discussions of a framework for a START III treaty, which could reduce U.S. and Russian arsenals to roughly 2,000 warheads per side and facilitate Russian ratification of START II, are also on the horizon. The foundation will continue to support concerted efforts to structure national and international debates on the elimination of nuclear weapons.
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